Interview: Resonators are all about rhythm
Brighton based eight-piece dub and reggae outfit Resonators are back with their brilliant third album “Imaginary People” on one of our favourite record labels, Wah Wah 45s. 25ThC caught up with band member Abraham Moughrabi to discuss influences, recording processes and reggae:
How and when did you form and who makes up the band?
Seth Tuffnell and George Berrills, drums and bass, found each other through a noticeboard ad to play reggae, around 2006 I think. A few musicians came and left the band, until the lineup settled as it’s been since 2009. Faye Houston and Kassia Zermon are both lead singers, along with Mike Shirley (guitar/vocals), Leroy Horns (sax), Joe Atherton (trumpet) and myself Abraham Moughrabi on the keys. For the launch of The Constant in 2012 we invited one of the album’s mix engineers Darren Jamtone to mix our live show. It kicked-off and he became the ninth member. What he does on the board is very musical and bridges the gap between our live sound and the records.
Your sound is inspired by Jamaican roots music and riddims. What is it about these classic sounds that draws you to them and which artists do you most admire?
Riddim. It’s all about rhythm. It creates movement, physically, mentally and emotionally. I think that as with most roots music and many other arts, there are kinds of archetypal forms and patterns which connect to our humanity on a fundamental level. It makes you dance, feel things and connect with other people. Jamaican roots artists are also very lyrically bold and inspiring. Those sweet and somber melodies, beautiful and fierce! So many artists… Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Max Romeo, Dennis Brown… ha ha, that’s a whole other Q&A right there!
How do you go about bringing those classic Jamaican sounds bang up to date and relevant for the 21st century?
Difficult to explain because it’s not something we talk about. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone while they’re singing! Our sound comes together very naturally when we’re all in a room jamming. With nine of us in the band there are plenty of influences of all types of music from this century.
Unusually you have two lead singers Kassia Zermon and Faye Houston. Why did you decide against having the standard big ego front man/woman and how does this change/affect your stage presence?
Kas and Faye joined the band as backing vocalists. When Keleche left, they saw each other as equals, and both songwriters who love harmonising together. We’d all been good friends for years so it happened quite naturally. I’ve heard it’s easy for there to be a weird singer-band dynamic, but Resonators has always been non-hierarchal, we all contribute what we can to the band, decisions are made together and it’s good vibes. I think that’s transmitted in our performance and general presence wherever we go. Or at least that’s what people tell us!
Congratulations on the release of your brilliant third album, “Imaginary People”. It has been four years in the making and you can tell that you have taken real attention to detail in each of the songs. What is your process for sketching out new tracks and is the whole band involved throughout?
Thank you! This album really started with a writing session in France. We had a run of shows out there and thought we’d spend a week off between gigs, jamming in an isolated house out in the Haut-Loire mountains. We wrote the foundations for most of the album there and then refined them at our weekly sessions together. We always like to play new tunes out before recording them too. You start to hear and feel music in a different way when you’re surrounded by other people, and although studio albums are a different kettle of fish, you need to get some of that energy into the record too. That’s why we recorded the rhythm section live onto tape. What’s different on an album is that there’s then scope to amplify the arrangements with overdubs, layering vocals, percussion, guitars, synths etc.. It was about 2 years from that first writing session to handing over the masters.
How does your new album progress your sound from your previous releases?
I think an artist always aspires to bettering themselves, to create the best work that they can, so I might be slightly biased! I think it’s maturer, very personal, more rootsy.
You are based in Brighton which has always had a thriving music scene. What are the pros and cons of being based in Brighton?
Brighton’s cool. A bit too cool sometimes.
You are on the legendary Wah Wah 45s label which has a diverse list of artists on their roster. How did you hook up with them initially and how have they helped your progress?
We self-released our first album on CD and managed to get it to people like David Rodigan who got behind it. After playing a gig at one of Wah Wah 45s nights down Brick Lane, they fell in love with the band and wanted to release Sweet Love Affair as a 7” single. It was hard to say no really. They’ve always been really positive about all of our music and have been great in getting it to a bunch of people that we wouldn’t have reached. They take on a whole load of work so we can put more time into the music. And they trust us, that’s liberating.
Reggae has always been very popular but it seems to be having a real renaissance in the last few years and getting a lot of mainstream interest. Why do you think this is happening at this time and which artists are your following?
There seems to be more and more division and polarisation in the world today. An overwhelming sense of confusion, fussing and fighting. Reggae music, it’s roots and culture, has always had a strong sense of love and community within it, which I guess makes it relevant to people looking for a way out of this fragmented society. Why it becomes mainstream interest is the same reason why anything does. Looking towards Jamaica, theres a surge of roots artists like Protoje, Chronixx and Jah9 that are on fire right now.
What does 2017 and beyond hold for the band?
Getting out on the road, playing shows and festivals for the peoples. We’ve been blessed with two babies in the band who have already started showing up to rehearsals and we’ve already started writing some new tunes! Lot’s more music and sharing wonderful experiences I hope.
Interview by 25ThC.